Back to School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School

August means it's time to be planning to head off to boarding school, and you need to know what you need to bring to campus. While every school is different, these are some general guidelines. Be sure to check with your student life office for specifics to your school.

Boarding school students can expect that their school will provide basic furnishings, including a twin-size bed and mattress, desk, chair, dresser and/or closet units. Each roommate will have his or her own furnishings, but room configurations may vary. 

So what else do you need? Here are several things to put on your back-to-school shopping list

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Back to School Bedding
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While a bed and mattress are provided, you need to bring your own bedding:

  • 2 sheet sets (usually a twin or twin XL size, but be sure to ask your student life office before purchasing). Having two sets of sheets means you can always have one on the bed and one in the laundry.
  • A mattress cover to keep the mattress clean. 
  • Pillows
  • A blanket and/or comforter. Depending on where you are going to school and how cold it can get in the winter, you may want to bring one light blanket and one heavy blanket. 
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shower supplies, shower caddy, toiletries
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Don't forget your bathroom and hygiene supplies, which you may want to store in your room and carry to the bathroom when needed. Toiletries you may need include:

  • A shower tote to carry all your toiletries in
  • Towels and washcloths - like your sheets, bring at least two sets so you can always have one clean set on deck. 
  • Shower shoes, which are often a pair of flip flops
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, mouth wash, dental floss
  • Cotton swabs, cotton balls
  • A brush and comb and any other hair products you use regularly.
  • Sunscreen and lotion - these are often overlooked, but with the amount of time you'll likely be spending outdoors for sports and activities, remembering to wear sunscreen can keep you healthy and burn free. Lotion is helpful if the air gets dry in the winter and you need to moisturize.
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This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's important to remember to bring different types of clothing, especially if you're not able to travel back home often.

Start by making sure you have the required dress code items. Dress code may vary, but typically dress slacks or skirts and dress shoes are required, as well as button-down shirts, ties, and blazers. Be sure to ask your student life office for exact dress code requirements. 

If you're going to a school where fall and winter may bring inclement weather, including rain, snow and cold weather, you'll want to make sure you bring:

  • Winter boots (waterproof or water-resistant)
  • Scarf, winter hat, gloves
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Umbrella

You may also consider bringing a wide array of clothing options, as you may find yourself in a variety of situations that require different attire. You will likely need to bring:

  • Dress clothing for formal occasions
  • Jeans, shorts, and other casual clothes
  • Athletic gear
  • Sneakers, dress shoes, flip flops
  • Sweaters and sweatshirts 
  • T-shirts and tank tops
  • Sunglasses
  • Baseball cap
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Laundry Items

laundry bag
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You'd be surprised how many students forget about this aspect of boarding school: washing your own clothes. Some schools offer laundry services where you can send your clothes away to be laundered, but if you plan on doing your own, here's what you need:

  • Laundry bag
  • Laundry detergent, stain remover, dryer sheets
  • Clothes drying rack​
  • Small sewing kit
  • Quarters or card system requirements
  • Clothes hangers and clothespins
  • Lint roller
  • Under-bed storage containers for extra clothing and/or storing your detergent
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Desk & School Supplies

alarm clock
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It is school, after all. So make sure you have:

  • A backpack or bag to carry your books/devices to class
  • All required technology (iPads, laptops, calculator)
  • Alarm clock (with battery backup in case you lose power)
  • Energy-efficient desk lamp
  • USB or Flash Drive
  • School supplies (i.e., pens, pencils, binders, notebooks, post-its, highlighters, stapler, etc.)
  • A Calendar/assignment book/planner - this may be your phone or tablet, but make sure you have some way of keeping track of everything
  • A surge protector and extension cord
  • Flashlight
  • Seat cushion (in case the desk chair isn't comfy)

Don't forget your chargers for your computer and cellphone

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Reusable Containers and Snacks

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While boarding schools provide meals to students, many enjoy keeping some quick snacks on hand. Don't go crazy here and be sure to not break any rules, though. You might bring:

  • Sealable containers, like Tupperware
  • Reusable mug/cup/water bottle
  • Reusable Dishes/bowls/plates/utensils  
  • Juice or sports drinks that don't need to be refrigerated.
  • Dishwashing liquid/sponge
  • Single-serve snacks, like popcorn and chips
  • Granola bars


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Medicine and First Aid Items

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Your school will likely have some specific instructions on how medicines and first aid items are administered, and rarely are you able to keep medicine in your room. Check with the health center or student life office to ask how to handle this. 

  • Having your own First aid kit can be helpful for minor paper cuts and scrapes
  • Bring the necessary medications, but make sure you bring them to the appropriate adult on campus for safe keeping
  • Even over the counter medicine may be prohibited from being stored in student rooms, so be sure to check
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Your Citation
Jagodowski, Stacy. "Back to School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2017, Jagodowski, Stacy. (2017, August 9). Back to School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School. Retrieved from Jagodowski, Stacy. "Back to School Shopping: What to Bring to Boarding School." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 27, 2018).